Review: Communicating for a Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones.

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Let me be honest. I love studying the subject of preaching. I want to be a lifelong student of the subject. But if I’m honest, a lot of books about preaching are somewhat dull, tedious, repetitive and unengaging. Not this book. Engaging. Compelling. Motivating. Intriguing. Is it perfect? No. But, I think you should read it.

The book reflects a highly pragmatic authorship. Stanley writes, “I’ve listened to dozens of preachers and teachers whose stated purpose for communicating is changed lives but whose style of communication doesn’t support their purpose. If you are not willing to make adjustments for the sake of your goal then one thing is clear: Your goal is something other than changed lives. Your goal is to keep doing what you’ve always done, to do what’s comfortable.”

What does it take to preach for changed lives? According to Stanley and Jones it involves clear, engaging, relevant and applied truth from God’s Word. This book advocates strongly for one-point sermons. That one point is combination of textual idea, sermonic big idea and sermon purpose. The very slight confusion that comes from combining distinct elements of sermon preparation is worth forgiving for the clarity created in this model.

The book is in two parts. The first part, by Lane Jones, is an extended metaphor that teaches the concepts of the book. A frustrated fictional preacher gets the best preaching education of his life from an unlikely mentor. This narrative is well written, compelling and regularly convicting as well. The agenda is clear in this narrative, but since the agenda is practical skill training rather than a theological hobbyhorse (as in similar books in recent years), I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The second part is Andy Stanley working through the seven principles of the book. I found myself agreeing with so much here. Strong emphasis on the connection built by speaker to listeners, and on surfacing need and interest in the message, and on having a unity in the whole by the use of a main idea (the one point), and application driving every aspect of the message rather than being tacked at the end, and on and on. I found this book interesting, more than that, challenging and motivating.

Reservations about the book? Just one. I wish there was another chapter or two on the Biblical part of the message. I understand Stanley’s five-part progression through a message, and he states that the middle stage, the “God” or Bible presentation stage is the longest one. But what does that look like? He explains that we shouldn’t be superficial, or overwhelm with too much information. But what should we do in that part? This omission could be taken in a couple of different ways. Someone with a strong commitment to the Bible and exposition might try the Stanley model with a solid biblical core. Someone without that same commitment may preach a biblically weak idea birthed out of their own experience. The book allows for both. I wish it were stronger on the former. I’m left wondering . . . on the one hand I know who his Dad is, and I know where he studied, both clues lead me to expect a very biblical tendency. On the other hand the book is inconclusive. I am left looking for an opportunity to watch some of his messages on the internet to see how the theory works out in practice. In fact, I am highly motivated to do that. And I suspect I might be very pleased by what I see. If you read the book, do the same and let me know what you think.

The reservation is not a really a critique, it’s more of a yearning for more. This book is well worth reading. It will breathe new life into your preaching and your motivation for preaching. I honestly think that all of us would improve as preachers by reading and implementing at least some of what this book teaches.

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5 thoughts on “Review: Communicating for a Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones.

  1. Peter, thanks for your review. I’ve recommended this book to all the adult teachers in our church, as well as many Bible teachers I coach. Though written to preachers, many of the key messages work equally well for teaching adults in large and small group settings.

    I believe Andy Stanley focuses on the parts outside of the biblical text study because that’s where he believes his recommendations have the greatest opportunity to help preachers connect with listeners/learners.

    Keep up the good work with this blog, many of us are learning a lot from your posts and guidance.

  2. Peter,

    You’re the man. I appreciate this blog as well. You make me think. You cover things books don’t. This post is not different. I am going to get this book and read it soon. I have heard Stanley. He’s a contemporary expositor whose aim is to be biblical and relevant. I can’t believe how Haddon has influenced preaching even to today. It’s just amazing how the big idea approach is still the way to preach.

    Later,

    Alan Stoddard

  3. Great book–my favorite on preaching. If you’ve not seen Andy Stanley preach before, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The man is an amazing preacher and teacher, and thoroughly biblical! He excels in what J. Vernon McGee used to refer to as taking the cookies off the top shelf and putting them within kids’ reach.

  4. I wish that he would have included a Message prep example or an actual example that would flesh out the book into its final components, it would answer a couple of detail questions that I have, but it is a great book that has totally change the way I approach speaking to students.

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